|Team-building never stops: Patriots have always made a few moves during slow portion of NFL calendar||06.23.16 at 1:24 pm ET|
While the NFL transaction wire slows dramatically between the middle of June and the end of July — and the start of training camp — it’s worth reminding people that there’s always seems to be some roster movement in that stretch, including from the Patriots.
In 2013 — not counting the signing of their own draft picks — the Patriots made eight personnel moves between the end of minicamp (June 13) and the start of training camp (July 25), including the release of tight end Aaron Hernandez and wide receiver Donald Jones.
In 2014 (again, not counting the signings of their own draft picks), the team made 10 moves between the middle of June and end of July, including the announcement of Armond Armstead’s retirement. And during that same stretch in 2015, the team added free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn and released tight end Fred Davis.
Fundamentally, always keep in mind that even though the coach may be spending most of his days on his boat — and the moves are rarely seismic in nature — the team-building process never stops.
|After several medical battles, Armond Armstead finally announces his retirement||07.16.14 at 3:39 pm ET|
The mystery over Armond Armstead has ended in retirement.
The 23-year-old defensive tackle originally signed with the Patriots on Feb. 1, 2013, after one season with the Toronto Argonauts. The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder, who was brought in as potential depth along the defensive line, was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List on Aug. 26, 2013.
There was plenty of speculation about his future in New England before the move to place him on the NFI list and over the course of this offseason, including OTAs and minicamp.
But all of that ended Wednesday, eight days before the opening of full training camp. as it turned out, Armstead could never fully recover after surgery on July 29, 2013 to treat an undisclosed infection.
“It has been a pleasure being around Armond, as he gave everything he could to play for us,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday in a team-issued statement. “Armond worked extremely hard since joining us last February. He’s had a lot of adversity personally that he’s had to deal with, unusual compared to most other players, but he’s always had a great attitude, worked hard and really did everything we asked him to do.
“While it is unfortunate he will not be able to play football, Armond is an outstanding young man who has a very bright future in whatever path he chooses.”
Armstead played for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012 out of the University of Southern California. He compiled 43 tackles, two special teams tackles and six sacks with Toronto. He was also named to the CFL All-Star game and helped Toronto win the Grey Cup. He started in 24 games at USC from 2008 through 2010.
Armstead suffered a heart attack while playing for USC, a medical event which he has blamed on unsolicited injections of the pain medication Toradol. That led to a lawsuit against the USC team physician, University Park Health Center, and an unnamed pharmaceutical company for unspecified damages, claiming the improperly administered Toradol injections caused the heart attack and affected his NFL career.
|At this point in offseason, where are Patriots personnel priorities?||04.04.14 at 9:55 pm ET|
With the offseason now one-third of the way done — and most of free agency now complete — the Patriots still have to address a few specific areas of need as part of the team-building process. Here’s a look at four personnel questions that have to be dealt with between now and the start of training camp.
Backup linebacker: Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher departed as free agents this offseason, with Spikes heading to Buffalo and Fletcher signing with Tampa Bay. Neither were starters, but over the last two seasons, both were called upon to play significant snaps for the Patriots. As a result, New England is a little thin when it comes to their linebacker depth. Currently on the roster, the Patriots have a few possibilities when it comes to backing up the expected starting trio of Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, including Steve Beauharnais, who just finished his rookie season. But their pursuit of veteran free agent Wesley Woodyard was likely a sign they believe they need more help when it comes to depth at the spot.
Strong safety: Steve Gregory was cut loose earlier this offseason, and Adrian Wilson was released on Friday. And while the Patriots did bring back Patrick Chung on Thursday, there’s some uncertainty as to what New England plans on doing at the position. Two things to remember: one, the Patriots like their defensive backs to be versatile, and so shuffling DBs from one spot to another wouldn’t be a surprise. And two, on that same vein, there are some possibilities on the roster, including Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan, the latter of whom has been the subject of much speculation this offseason when it comes to a possible move to free safety. In addition, there’s Tavon Wilson, who slid down the depth chart in 2013 to more of a special teams role, one that’s also occupied by fellow safeties Kanorris Davis and Nate Ebner. (And there’s always the possibility that Gregory could return on a reworked deal — he said this week despite the fact that he was cut by New England, “it would definitely be a place I would love to go back to.”) Regardless of whether or not New England decides to address the position in the draft, right now, it’s shaping up to be one of the more intriguing camp battles this spring and summer.
Situational pass rusher: The Patriots were believed to be at least partially in the mix for Jared Allen in free agency before he signed with the Bears, and while New England does currently have youngsters Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan on the roster as backup defensive ends, it’s a fair dropoff at this point from the starting duo of Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. In terms of free agents who could still be on the market, Will Smith remains a possibility, but his recent injury woes leave him questionable at this stage of his career. When it comes to other in-house possibilities, Andre Carter could return for at least part of the season if New England struggles to find help — he sure sounds open to the possibility of returning. In addition, Armond Armstead could also be in the mix as an interior pass rushing presence at some point if he ever does get healthy. It’s also expected that if veteran Tommy Kelly can stay on the field, he’ll offer some support as another interior pass rushing presence in 2014.
Depth at tight end and running back: While New England appears to be set when it comes to starters at the two positions, it could really use some depth at both spots, and both will likely be addressed in some form or fashion come the second and/or third day of the draft. Despite the fact the Patriots might be more inclined to move away from the two-tight end sets they ran over the last few seasons, another tight end to compliment Rob Gronkowski could be had in this draft, especially given the fact that this year appears to be a pretty good one for tight ends. In addition, the fact that the Patriots made a serious play for veteran free agent running back Maurice Jones-Drew could be taken as a sign they feel like they need someone to replace LeGarrette Blount in the backfield.
|Bill Belichick: ‘Less likely now’ that Armond Armstead will be able to contribute in 2013||11.11.13 at 2:57 pm ET|
It appears that with each passing day, it’s less and less likely defensive lineman Armond Armstead will be able to contribute to the Patriots in 2013.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters Monday, coach Bill Belichick indicated that New England is “running out of time,” when it comes to Armstead’s situation.
“We’ll keep going but as you said, we’re running out of time,” Belichick said when quizzed about the possibility of Armstead being ready to go. “I’d say that looks less likely now with each day that goes by.”
Armstead, a former CFL star who was acquired this offseason by the Patriots, underwent surgery for an infection prior to the start of training camp, and was placed on the reserve/NFI list as a result. Teams have until the conclusion of Week 11 of the season for players on reserve lists to begin practicing, which is this week.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Patriots practice Thursday: Tommy Kelly, Leon Washington and Jamie Collins missing||10.10.13 at 10:47 am ET|
FOXBORO — Tommy Kelly and Leon Washington missed their second straight practice on Thursday while defensive end Michael Buchanan returned as the Patriots worked out in sweats and shells on the upper grass fields outside Gillette Stadium. Linebacker Jamie Collins, who was not on Wednesday’s injury report, was not present either for the start of practice.
Kelly left Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter holding his right knee and limped off the field. Washington suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by Devin McCourty in the kick return game.
Also of note, running back Shane Vereen and defensive lineman Armond Armstead made an appearance on a separate practice field and were spotted working out in sweats. Vereen had a brace on his right wrist, the wrist that was broken in Week 1 in Buffalo. Armstead, who spent the first five weeks on the non-football illness list, has been recovering from an infection that required surgery in the summer.
The team is continuing on-field preparations for the Saints this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
On Wednesday, in an effort to add depth along the defensive line, which is already without Vince Wilfork for the rest of the season, the team signed former Panthers defensive tackle Andre Neblett on Wednesday.
|Five thoughts on how Patriots might try to replace Vince Wilfork||09.30.13 at 7:14 am ET|
1. If Wilfork is indeed lost for a serious stretch, the Patriots could make the shift to a three-man defensive front, utilizing Tommy Kelly on the nose and Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich as defensive ends. Kelly does have some positional versatility in that area, but in the past, he hasn’t sounded all that crazy about the idea of working as a nose tackle in the 3-4. It remains to be seen if he’d change his tune now that he’s here in New England, but it doesn’t seem like a realistic, long-term possibility. It would present the intriguing possibility of the Patriots — who have played a TON of nickel through the first four games — to go with some sort of 3-3-5 scheme as opposed to the 4-2-5 which they’ve favored to this point. That could make for some interesting personnel combinations, and also open the door for more playing time for linebacker Brandon Spikes.
One short-term possibility could be the increased use of Jones as a defensive tackle — the Patriots shifted the Syracuse product down from the defensive end spot on a number of occasions over the first four games in hopes of creating chaos on the interior for guards and centers, and the long and lean Jones has done well in that role. (Rookie Michael Buchanan filled Jones’ spot at defensive end.) However, the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Jones is lighter than your usual defensive tackle, and so it’s questionable how he’d be able to hold up against the run on a consistent basis. But for 10-15 snaps a game, it remains a distinct possibility.
2. The Patriots could go out and sign someone to serve as an extra defensive tackle. There are several veteran free agents who are still in the market — frankly, it’s just a matter of determining who still has some tread on their tires and who is done. Casey Hampton and Sione Po’uha are two guys who certainly fit the mold as space-eating defensive tackles who are still available, but you’d have to gauge their interest in a return to the NFL even before you discussed the possibility of a workout.
3. Interestingly, several of the guys who are out there have connections to New England. Richard Seymour, Ron Brace and Kyle Love are three free agent possibilities. (Given the history between the two sides, it might be a bit of a longshot to say Seymour would return to New England. But you never know.) A second-round pick out of Boston College in 2009, Brace was considered a bit of an underachiever in his stint with the Patriots, and was cut loose late last year. And Love was released this past May after it was revealed he had Type-2 diabetes. He was quickly claimed by the Jags, but was a victim of the final round of cuts before the start of the season. The 25-year-old has had workouts with the Niners and Seahawks since the season began, but hasn’t hooked on with any other team to this point. Nicknamed “Mini V” because of his playing style and his unabashed love for Wilfork, he’d be an intriguing possibility if everything was equal. There’s always the possibility of a trade, but that market is unclear, at least at this point in the season.
4. The Patriots do have some possibilities currently on the roster, including Chris Jones and Joe Vellano. The 6-foot-2, 306-pound Jones, a sixth-round pick out of Bowling Green who was picked up off waivers from the Texans earlier this month, was pressed into service Sunday night when Kelly was out for a spell. He teamed with Vellano, a 6-foot-2,
200– 300-pounder out of Maryland who played well in spot duty through the first four games of the season. (Vellano had his first sack of the year Sunday night when he busted through the line in the second half and took down Matt Ryan.) In addition, two practice squad possibilities are A.J. Francis, a former college teammate of Vellano who checks in at 6-foot-5 and 316 pounds who was added from the Dolphins earlier this month, as well as Marcus Forston, a 6-foot-3, 305-pound defensive tackle who has spent a year in the system (most of the time working as a practice squad guy) learning at the foot of fellow Miami product Wilfork.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Patriots don’t need to do anything. In a series of Tweets early Monday morning, Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders made an interesting case for standing pat, saying that other teams have done as much in the past when they’ve lost a comparable defensive tackle, and the difference has been negligible.
5. The Patriots do have a couple of guys who might be able to fill the spot, but their hands are tied, at least for the next few weeks. At 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, Armond Armstead is a pass rushing lineman who is more of a defensive end than tackle, but does have some positional versatility and could kick inside. However, the former CFL sack king is currently on the reserve/NFI list because of a medical issue (surgery for an infection), and is eligible to return to action in a few weeks. In addition, Cory Grissom, a rookie defensive tackle out of South Florida who was placed on IR this summer and will be out for the entire 2013 season.
|Five thoughts on Patriots’ initial round of cuts and who might still be out there to help New England||08.26.13 at 2:41 pm ET|
1. There were no surprises in the initial round of roster cuts that were conducted by the Patriots on Monday. A few thoughts regarding some of the moves:
A) The decision to place defensive lineman Armond Armstead on the reserve/non-football injury list brings some clarity to a murky situation. Armstead, a CFL export who was one of the best pass-rushers north of the border last year, hasn’t practiced to this point in camp, and the team announced early that he had some sort of surgery for an infection. (Bill Belichick indicated that whatever malady was dogging Armstead, it wasn’t related to the heart issue he suffered as a collegian.) Now, we know that Armstead’s issues are more short-term — with the reserve/NFI designation, he isn’t eligible to start practicing until after the sixth week of the season.
B) Putting rookie defense lineman Cory Grissom and second-year tackle Markus Zusevics on injured reserve effectively ends their seasons, but at the same time, speaks to just how much the Patriots believe they can help long term that they would be willing to keep them around — albeit on the shelf — for the entire season instead of cutting them loose and coming to some sort of injury settlement with them. Grissom showed a real feistiness through his first camp with New England, but reportedly suffered a knee injury in last Thursday’s game against the Lions. As for Zusevics, this will mark the second consecutive season he’ll start on the sideline. The Iowa product, who suffered a pectoral injury at the combine, started his rookie season on the reserve/NFI List before being activated on Nov. 22, 2012.
C) As for the players who will benefit the most from the personnel decisions on Monday, with Armstead on the shelf for at least the first six games, defensive tackles Joe Vellano, Marcus Forston and Anthony Rashad White likely will compete for the role of backup defensive tackle behind Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork. With Zusevics out for the year, that likely will open up a spot as a backup tackle.
D) It wouldn’t be a surprise to see linebacker Niko Koutouvides back on the 53-man roster sooner rather than later. The special teams ace bounced on and off the New England roster in 2011 and 2012, and his familiarity with the system, good nature and the financial flexibility he offers from a contractual standpoint means there’s a good chance he could return at some point this season.
2. As you probably know by now, the first round of cuts did not involve quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow should get an opportunity in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Giants. Looking back through the box scores of the fourth preseason game over the last few years, it’s important to note that while Tom Brady has seen some action (he played in 2010 and 2011), it’s also a chance for the third-stringer to see some of his most extensive action of the preseason: Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett both played in 2012 and 2011, while Zac Robinson played in 2010.
3. When it comes to players getting cut loose who might appeal to the Patriots, quarterback Ricky Stanzi might be intriguing for a few reasons. First, the former Kansas City signal-caller has some experience working with former Chiefs (and current New England assistant) Brian Daboll. And second, Stanzi — like Brady — was a disciple of the late Tom Martinez, a Bay Area quarterback guru. And three, in addition to his work with Martinez, Stanzi also has another connection to the Patriots ‘ while at Iowa, he played for former Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz, and Belichick certainly has an affinity for student-athletes who come of age while playing collegiately for an ex-assistant (Ferentz, Nick Saban, Pat Hill and Charlie Weis).
4. There were a couple of other names who became available on Monday, including veteran wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth. The 32-year-old Stallworth, who was cut loose by the Redskins, made no bones about the fact that he loved playing for the Patriots, having suited up in New England in 2007 and 2012. (Last year, he was in on one play, a 62-yard touchdown reception against the Texans.) While it remains to be seen how much he has left in the tank, if he doesn’t get picked up, he might be an intriguing in-season addition for the Patriots if one of the young receivers ends up struggling with his transition to the pro level.
5. The Bills will start rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel in the regular-season opener against the Patriots next month. While Bill Belichick said Monday afternoon that the analysis of who might be starting for Buffalo in the season opener hadn’t really started at this point, it’s clear the Patriots have a good handle on what sort quarterback they’ll be facing. The Washington State product is a 6-foot-3, 218-pounder who had a workout with the Patriots on March 22 as part of the pre-draft process. Tuel was the most accurate passer in Washington State history, having completed just over 61 percent of his passes, and started all four seasons in college. (The only other WSU QB to start as a freshman? Drew Bledsoe.) While he struggled with injuries as a collegian — dislocated kneecap, broken clavicle and leg injuries all limited his time — he finished his college career with 5,932 yards passing and 33 touchdowns. (For what it’s worth, I believe that Tuel would have made a nice late-round or UDFA pickup for the Patriots this past spring.)
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